I have been thinking lately, about how we are all potential role models. No. We ARE all role models. That is a huge leap for me. It means I have to accept responsibility for the way I am, knowing that I might just be shining a light for someone else, or if I am not careful leading someone in the wrong direction.
On January 1st 2017, I gave up alcohol. Initially, I did so for a month – Dry January has become a thing that many people do, and I knew from experience that it would be difficult but rewarding. I have, or had, several health conditions that I knew to be exacerbated by alcohol, and I had become increasingly concerned about the news that it is also a carcinogen. In fact, in 2015 (the most recently released figures), there were 8,758 deaths associated with alcohol in the UK; that is 14.2 deaths per 100,000 adults. While the rate is higher for men than women, the highest rates are in the 55-64 age bracket (https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/bulletins/alcoholrelateddeathsintheunitedkingdom/registeredin2015). I am 64.
During Dry January, I became increasingly aware that I wanted to take it further this time, but I was concerned about needing support. I came across One Year No Beer (https://www.facebook.com/groups/199505820380513/), on recommendation from another DJ-er. The support I found there, and the extra support I gained from paying the small one-off fee for extra support, was transformational. I have genuinely found that the longer I stay Alcohol Free (AF), the more my life rocks. And the more I rock you rock, and the world rocks.
Which leads me on to my responsibility. I am beginning to share in this blog what I have learned and am learning, in the hope that it can shine some light in someone else’s darkness, or maybe just make it easier to see that needle and thread.
One of the things I have been thinking about lately, is that when we get rid of something addictive, we miss the dopamine rush we get in our brains when we indulge in that addiction. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, released when we experience something pleasurable. When something makes us release it, we want to go back for more – which is why it is so hard to give up something like alcohol! In addition, we develop a myriad associations with drinking, which become triggers for the craving. We drink because we want to celebrate, because we are sad, because we are angry, because we want to be sociable, because the sun comes out, or because we are on holiday or it is the end of a long working week. Undoing each and every one of those associations is like untangling the wires you find behind your computer desk, then rewiring each plug. Only a lot more difficult.
So how can we begin this rewiring? Well, the answer I feel lies in the dopamine. Lots of people I have made virtual friends with on this journey engage in 5 k runs and other hard core exercise. I do love a bit of exercise-induced endorphins, but sometimes I just want to have fun! So, I am seeking more and more of the fun stuff in life, to get it into my brain (literally!) that there is more to life than alcohol. In fact, and I often repeat this to myself, alcohol never made anything better! But walking in the sunshine and looking at the view from the top of the hill – well, that is magic! As is dancing my socks off. Sitting and having a cuppa with a friend. Reading a good book. I could go on.
So, my challenge to you, dear reader, is twofold:
- Find something that rocks your world. Find that (healthy) dopamine rush. Comment below on what that might be.
- And remember: you are a role model. You rock. What are you going to do with that knowledge?